A comic operetta in two acts

Music by Leonard Bernstein

Book  by Hugh Wheeler, after Voltaire
Lyrics by Richard Wilbur,  Stephen Sondheim,
John La Touche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker
and Leonard Bernstein.

Orchestrations by
Leonard Bernstein and Hershey Kay with musical
continuity and additional orchestrations by John Mauceri 


Performing Edition:
Scottish Opera Edition of the Opera House Version (1988)
with additional script material adapted from
the Chelsea Theatre Production (1973)
the New York City Opera Version (1982)
and the Royal National Theatre Production (1999)


Candide, the Baron’s lowly illegitimate nephew, lives in the Baron’s castle in Westphalia, Germany. Candide is unfortunately in love with Cunegonde, the Baron’s daughter. Cunegonde and her brother Maximilian, along with Candide and Paquette the serving maid, are happy with their lots (“Life is Happiness Indeed”). The four have learned their Optimistic happiness from Dr. Pangloss, an egotistical philosopher (“The Best of All Possible Worlds”). Cunegonde decides to try an experimental kiss with Candide, then, professing their love for each other, Candide and Cunegonde dream of what married life might be (“Oh, Happy We”).

Candide is promptly exiled, wandering alone with only his faith in Optimism to cling to (“It Must Be So”). Just then, the Bulgar and Zabar armies go to war (“Battle Music”). Candide returns to the ruins of Westphalia searching for Cunegonde (“Candide’s Lament”). While searching, he meets James, an Anabaptist, who gives him two florins. Candide in turn gives these coins to a ravaged Pangloss who tells him of a disease he contracted from Paquette (“Dear Boy”). The Anabaptist offers the men employment and they set sail to Lisbon, Portugal. However, as they arrive, a volcano erupts and an earthquake results in the death of thousands. Pangloss and Candide are blamed for the disaster, arrested as heretics, and publicly tortured by order of the Grand Inquisitor (“Auto-da-Fé”).

Meanwhile, in Paris, France, Cunegonde ruminates on what she has done to survive (“Glitter and Be Gay”). Candide coincidentally reunites with Cunegonde (“You Were Dead, You Know”). However, the Old Lady, Cunegonde’s companion, forewarns Cunegonde and Candide of impending disaster. The three flee to Cadiz, Spain, where the Old Lady tells them of her past. Cunegonde’s jewels are stolen and in turn the Old Lady offers to sing for their supper (“I Am Easily Assimilated”). A half-caste, Cacambo, arrives with the Captain of a merchant ship. Accepting an offer to fight for the Jesuits in Montevideo, Uruguay, Candide agrees to take Cunegonde, the Old Lady and Cacambo to the New World (“Quartet Finale”).

Landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Candide and Cacambo leave to find the Governor to secure humble lodgings before heading south. The Old Lady convinces Cunegonde that a marriage with the Governor would better support their finances (“We Are Women”). Maximilian and Paquette, having been captured as slave girls, reunite. The Governor falls in love with Maximilian (“My Love”), but soon realizes his “mistake” and hands him off to a priest.

Convinced by the Old Lady that the authorities are after them, Candide and Cacambo flee into the jungle where they are lost and starving. They eventually come upon the mythical lost city of Eldorado (“Introduction to Eldorado”). The two discover streets paved with gold and gems. Candide suggests they use these riches to ransom back Cunegonde. The locals think him foolish to leave, but offer to help, constructing a machine that will lift them over the mountains (“The Ballad of Eldorado”).

Alighting at a Dutch colony in Surinam, Candide meets Vander- dendur, newly arrived from Buenos Aires, who offers his ship bound for America. Candide sends Cacambo off to retrieve Cunegonde and then to meet him in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Dutch locals wish Candide a safe journey (“Bon Voyage”). Candide’s ship sinks and a storm drowns Vanderdendur and his crew.

After climbing aboard another ship docking in Santa Monica, California, Candide and a fellow sailor board a bus full of nuns headed to Vegas (“Money, Money, Money”). Pangloss is surprisingly discovered among them. The sailor gives Candide a letter supposedly written by Cunegonde. He is taken to find her, but instead stumbles upon Paquette, now a prostitute. Maximilian arrives, himself now the corrupt Prefect of Police. Cacambo finds Candide and announces that Cunegonde is now working as a showgirl in a notorious nightclub. They all rush out to find her. Upon seeing what she has become, Candide’s image of her is shattered (“Nothing More Than This”). Candide does not speak for several days. With what little money they have left, they purchase a small farm as Candide ponders his many travels (“Universal Good”). Candide finally speaks, asking to marry Cunegonde, and resolving to create an accepting community within an imperfect world (“Make Our Garden Grow”).

Antique map of the world


Written in 1759 by the French philosopher Voltaire, the novella Candide, ou l’Optimisme (Candide, or Optimism) is characterized by its sarcastic tone and absurdist plot. It was soon translated into every major language and enjoyed notoriety the world around. It was widely banned, however, due to its religious blasphemy, political sedition, and overt libertinism, although now ranks as one of the most widely taught works of French literature.

The literary device that drives Candide is satire, ironically placing tragedy and comedy side by side in an effort to highlight inconsistencies in philosophies and traditions. However, the rules of satire are such that no matter how amusing it is, it doesn’t count unless you find yourself wincing a little even as you chuckle. “First make people laugh, and then make them think.” The primary topics of satire have historically been religion, politics, and sex, partly because these are the most central issues for those living in a pluralistic society, and partly because these subjects are usually taboo.

In 1956, Lillian Hellman and Leonard Bernstein chose this source material to make comment on the society in which they found themselves. From McCarthyism and the Red Scare to the Hollywood Blacklists and Civil Rights Movement to the rise of more overt religious influence in society and the reaction against it, the creators of this musical comedy saw mid- century America being ever more divided and found resonance between their world and that of Voltaire. Over the years, this piece went through a number of massive revisions and re- configurations, adding new collaborators and performance styles along the way, and today a definitive version of the work still remains elusive.

Our production today will likely be challenging at different times to different viewers. It skewers points of view across the social-political spectrum and confronts various systems of belief. The offense that this may cause is purposeful and meant to highlight divisions we find within our own culture of 2024, taking as our cue the intents of the original creators themselves.

In the end, it is my hope that we may come away with a greater understanding of our own civil landscape in order to facilitate a more open discussion within our fragmented community. Perhaps, as Candide himself, we might come to accept the faults and foibles in ourselves and others and work together toward a common good, to make our own collective garden grow stronger for the future

Candide Cast & Creative Team

Man with light beard

David Walton

Close up of young woman with brown hair

Robin Steitz

face of a man with brown hair

Daniel Narducci

Man with brown hair and beard

Timothy McDevitt
Maximilian / Captain

Woman with dark hair.

Alta Danzler
Old Lady

Smiling woman with long brown hair.

Cristina Maria Castro

Young man with beard
Jonathan Elmore
Grand Inquisitor/
Photo of Gavriel Heine

Gavriel Heine
Conductor & Musical Director

Photo of A Scott Parry

A Scott Parry
Stage Director